Young Equestrians

U.S. Saddle Seat Teams Win Gold Under Guidance of N.J. Coach

The U.S. Saddle Seat Team Credits: Stevie Bagdasarian

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The U.S. Saddle Seat World Cup Team emerged victorious at the 2018 Saddle Seat World Cup this week, winning the gold medal in both the three-gaited and five-gaited divisions.

One of the team coaches is Hilary Wilcox of Kierson Farm in Readington Township, N.J. Along with fellow coach, Jonelle Chovanec  and team mentors, Cindy Mugnier and Barbe Smith, the team of 12 athletes represented the United States to face-off against teams of top saddle seat equitation riders from Canada, Namibia, and South Africa at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky., July 4-6.

Following the U.S. in the three-gaited division, Canada earned the silver medal, South Africa the bronze, and Namibia placed fourth. In the five-gaited division, South Africa earned the silver medal and Namibia earned the bronze.

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Competition kicked off in full force on Wednesday, July 4, with Phase 1 where the U.S. three- and five-gaited teams came to impress judges Jaco Jonker (South Africa), Lewis McKim (Canada), and Kent Swalla (U.S.) with their skill and horsemanship in group railwork and individual workouts.

Team members came from all over the United States.

The three-gaited team produced strong individual pattern tests, catching the eyes of the judges. “The [three-gaited] team did a really, really great job,” said Wilcox. “They nailed all their points and put in clean rides all the way around. I was very pleased with the fact that they rode incredibly smart, and it is clear they put in really good work at home to be ready for it.”

The five-gaited team followed suit, executing skilled tests and revealing the depth of talent amongst competitors. “The longer the competition went, riders from all the countries got better and better,” said Chovanec. “It was amazing to see the five-gaited horses exhibited in a manner that we’re not always seeing in this country. Doing the pattern work. I thought it really proved the versatility of the breed and our riders.”

The next day brought Phase 2, where the competition remained fierce. “I’ve had an opportunity to judge an invitational and the World Cup in 2016 and I see an incredible growth in ability from all the teams,” said Mugnier. “I think the sport is getting stronger and the competition is getting very strong, very stiff. It’s a level playing field.”

Amongst such tough competition, U.S. riders continued to shine. “I really couldn’t be prouder of our team this year,” Mugnier continued. “They worked as a cohesive group, they were willing to sacrifice and put their wants on the backburner to do what was best for the team and what we felt would be most successful. And they did it willingly, happily, and with a big smile, and that was a priceless gift.”

Learn more about the 2018 Saddle Seat World Cup.

For additional information or questions regarding the Saddle Seat World Cup, please contact Lori Nelson, Senior Director of National Affiliates, Competition and Alliance Partner Relationships, by phone at 859-225-6957 or via email at

Stay up to date on the U.S. Saddle Seat World Cup Team by following USA Saddle Seat on Facebook and US Equestrian on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Use #USASaddleSeat and #JointheJoy.

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